Film Review: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Review by Frances Winston

Directed by: André Øvredal –  Starring: Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur, Natalie Ganzhorn, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint

Halloween may seem eons away (it’s not though) but with the darker evenings creeping in, there is definitely an autumnal feel in the air, which makes the timing of this release somewhat appropriate.

Based on the bestselling, and much-loved, book series of the same name, writers Dan and Kevin Hageman have selected a handful of the stories for this offering.

Interestingly, they have resisted the temptation to do an anthology-type piece, a la Creepshow or similar, and rather thread them all together through a common narrative.

Set in 1968, this sets itself up as a haunted house story. Aspiring writer, Stella, and her friends decide to prank a friend by taking her to the creepy old home of the Bellows family, who helped found the town. Inside, they find a book of scary stories that belonged to Sarah Bellows, who was removed from all the family photos. When Stella takes the book home, she discovers that it starts mysteriously writing new stories. Troublingly, these all appear to come true, and soon her friends are disappearing.

Realising that the spirit of Sarah is to blame, Stella must try and reason with the entity, before everyone she knows is gone forever. This is very much targeting the tween audience, as well as those with nostalgia for the source material. Given this fact, Øvredal therefore can’t throw the kitchen sink at it, but he does try and push the envelope as far as he can, while also making it suitable for younger eyes.

This is low on gore – that probably would have upped the rating – but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fright-fest, and it has plenty of jump out of your seat moments. Yes the CGI is a little ropey at times, but that almost adds to the charm. Some of the stories don’t really feel like they’ve had proper justice done to them , given that they are incorporated into the bigger story, and not all fans of the book will be satisfied with the choices.

However, younger horror fans will love this, and it will be a good introduction to the genre for some of them. Older fans of the book will simply delight at seeing the stories come to life.

Overall, this is a bit of fun – the movie equivalent of telling ghost-stories around the campfire – that delivers some frights in the build-up to Halloween.

In Cinemas Now!

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